INTRODUCTION

These essays show the development of my thinking about the crafts, starting in 1980. Most of these essays are out-of-print. A few were never published in the first place. Some were published (or presented as lectures) with illustrations, but the versions here have only text.

A bit about nomenclature. Recent books like Richard Sennett's The Craftsman define "craft" as any kind of careful work done for its own sake. While interesting, this definition does little to illuminate the fields we know as the crafts. For that reason, I now reluctantly use "the crafts" to indicate the various studio craft disciplines. However, in most of the writing here, I didn't use the singular "craft" in Bennett's broad sense.

I divided the essays into four categories. The first, "Beginnings," set out a brief history of studio crafts, along with an introduction to my thinking. The second essay, "Crafts: Second-Class Citizens?" (1980) was my first major article. I'm now a bit embarrassed to read it, but it's a reference point for all that followed.

The second category is "Jewelry." I put two essays here: one an overview of jewelry in general, and the other a consideration of my favorite jeweler's jeweler, Pat Flynn. I have come to believe there are different kinds of crafts. The kind of craft that many regard as conservative – crafts that are rigorously functional and devoid of ambitions to be regarded as art – are very interesting to me because they often address ideas that are entirely native to the field. The Flynn essay looks at this notion in detail.

The third group is called "Towards a Theory of Crafts." This is a bit of an exaggeration, since I don't believe there will ever be a single theory of crafts. Still, these four essays trace my effort to identify a territory of facts and ideas that properly belong to the crafts, and to no other discipline.

The last category is "Crafts Now." The first essay is an argument for the continued presence of crafts instruction in higher education. "DIY, Websites and Energy" is a short speech I gave at the 2008 SNAG conference that caused quite a stir in the crafts blogosphere. This speech, along with "News Flash," looks at a generational shift in taste and attitude that is sweeping through the crafts.

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